Sunday, April 26, 2015

Drive-by agave sighting

Whenever I drive to the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA, I see a row of Agave ‘Blue Glow’ in front of an office building not far from the RBG. Yesterday I finally stopped to take a closer look. It turns out the landscaping is even more diverse than I had thought.

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While the agaves are the stars, there are other supporting players that make the overall planting scheme a success in my eyes. Take a closer look!

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Row of Agave ‘Blue Glow’

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Blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae) and California gray rush (Juncus patens)

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Center bed between the two sets stairs: various Arctotis hybrids and variegated yuccas (Yucca filamentosa ‘Bright Edge’ or similar) leading up to small cape rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) in front of  wall

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Festival grass (Cordyline × ‘JURred’) in planters in the courtyard of the stairs

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Mexican grass tree (Dasylirion longissimum) overlooking Treat Blvd

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Blue chalk fingers (Senecio mandraliscae) and Agave ‘Blue Glow’’

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Another perspective

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As much as I like the landscaping scheme overall, there is still so much lawn that needs to be addressed. It will be interesting to see how large commercial buildings like this business park deal with the water reduction mandate in California.

In this case, a meadow of berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) or buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides) might be nice. It would be a great backdrop for more succulents or native shrubs like manzanitas.

12 comments:

  1. Good start, who knows perhaps they may be on their way to taking off most the lawn.

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  2. I'm glad you stopped. Lots of great plants here and so much space for more once the lawn is removed!

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    1. I'll report back if I see any progress. I'm in Walnut Creek fairly regularly.

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  3. Looks like they are on the right track and i like the textures and colors. A meadow is a great idea....perhaps you should write them. I love the Blue chalk fingers in mass : )

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    1. I would love to know who exactly is responsible for the landscaping at a business park like this one...

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  4. What is really effective here for commercial/public spaces is the Deer Grass planted in soldier-like grids; it can go completely unwatered in summer, fills the space, is native, beautiful golden bronze even when dried out and dormant. You can't walk or play on it, but who walks or plays on that lawn there?

    I like the landscape they made, but like you I also don't like it. The close-to-mature 'Blue Glow' have perhaps 2 years before they bloom and die--what then? Back to petunias? I question the Dasylirion's spot--it will extend beyond the planter and they must cut it back for safety reasons. The same genus but different species, wheeleri instead of longissimum, would have fit without a need for trim and would give the same effect. The beautiful blue chalk fingers looks like h--l in the summer, no matter what you do--it's the way they are.

    I do understand though the pressures of the professional landscaper--plants are not available, the budget is tight, etc, the designer specifies one species and supplier gives you another.

    I'm fascinated by how one's perception changes--a few years ago I would not have been so uneasy with the grass next to the Agaves. Now it looks quite strange, the look itself, all water use aside.

    Thank you for taking the time to show us this property.

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    1. Gail, as always your comments are well thought of and right on point.

      Deer grass is beautiful en masse but not everybody shares this opinion. I've heard people refer to it as "that brown clump of weeds."

      I hope the 'Blue Glow' will be replaced with other agaves when the time comes--maybe a species that doesn't flower as young.

      There's enough room for the Dasylirion longissimum, I think. It's slow growing, too. But D. wheeleri would have been my choice as well.

      I would love to have a hear to heart with a professional landscape designer to find out what constraints they're typically up against. It can't be an easy job.

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  5. I imagine there's a whole industry coming up focused on lawn removal. The lawn service companies down this way appear to be woefully behind in planning their response to current events.

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    1. And it's not like nobody saw this coming. Nimble companies would have prepared for this and expanded their portfolio of services. Having said that, I feel awful for the guys who do the actual work. They'll be the first to be out of a job when there are no more lawns to mow.

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  6. What about commercial properties, are they under the same mandates that home owners are?

    I will never tire of Senecio mandraliscae as a ground cover, it is amazing.

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    1. Great question about commercial properties. I didn't know the answer so I did a quick search and found this clear and concise article. Here's an excerpt:

      "As a result of the new requirements, commercial property owners will need to develop plans immediately relating to the reduction of potable water usage. Landscape water usage will surely be one of the areas that will be within the realm of such plans. Beautifully landscaped lawns and elegant fountains on corporate campuses are examples of wasteful outdoor features that will either need to be done away with completely or converted into drought tolerant features. One possible solution is for owners to convert such fountains into planter beds with drip irrigation and drought tolerant plants."

      In general, the implementation and enforcement details are still up in the air so who knows what the actual ramifications will be.

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